Nepalese khukuri or Omani khanjar? Designer uses Islamic motifs in her jewels

Mohita Bhimsaria finds commonalities between her home country Nepal and the Middle East

The Khukuri brooch by Nepalese designer Mohita Bhimsaria was taken by some as representative of the Omani khanjar. Photo: Mohita Bhimsaria
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Separated by vast deserts and towering peaks, the Middle East and Nepal might be miles apart, but one jewellery designer is making a name for herself on the back of nature’s symbolism in the cultures of both regions.

Nepalese designer Mohita Bhimsaria, who lives in Oman, creates pieces that meld the aesthetics of her home country with Islamic motifs.

She started down this path purely by chance. At an exhibition in Muscat last October, Bhimsaria had a stall of her handcrafted jewels, each inspired by Nepal's culture, architecture and people.

The Dhoop Chaya necklace, for example, was crafted to represent the Asian country's cultural celebration of celestial bodies. The piece featured a crescent moon overlapping with the sun, akin to Nepal's flag. However, plenty of Middle Eastern visitors at the exhibition asked if the necklace was also imbued with local meaning.

"People from the Middle East, too, look up to the moon for guidance, especially the crescent moon, and so they really connected with the necklace and were eager to know the story behind it.”

The designer’s Khukuri brooch was another well-appreciated piece. While she created it to celebrate the broad-bladed sword that is an integral symbol of Nepal, as well as being the country’s national weapon, “some visitors thought the khukuri was an Omani Khanjar”, says Bhimsaria. “This similarity in cultures and motifs became a conversation starter.”

Eager to imbue the culture of the Middle East into her designs, Bhimsaria went back to her Nepalese craftsmen with fresh and more deliberate ideas.

Accordingly, the Miskat collection captures everything from Muscat's mosques, museums, palaces and even street lamps, to Dubai's deserts and currency.

The Jamal pendant, for example, features a camel on a pearl necklace, in a bid to pay homage to the ship of the desert and the region’s pearling traditions.

The designer uses pearls and lapis in her Middle East-inspired Miskat collection. Photo: Mohita Bhimsaria

The Dallah ring depicts the Arabic coffee pot on a coin-like shape meant to represent the UAE dirham. “It’s a ritual in the UAE to serve guests coffee in a dallah Khawa pot with figs or dates as accompaniment, and I love that tradition,” says Bhimsaria.

The rings are also embedded with lapis, as Bhimsaria says she’s observed women in the region are fond of this gemstone.

Elsewhere, the texture on the Shati cuff bracelet takes after grains of sand, while a bracelet that features the eight-point Khatim-Sulayman star, also doubles as an anklet. Its dual name – Tara and Rub Al Hizb – is symbolic of the line Bhimsaria is walking with this creative and culturally relevant collection.

Rub Al Hizb bracelet. Photo: Mohita Bhimsaria

Bhimsaria says her pieces are deliberately delicate as she has observed women in Muscat "while very fashionable, have a penchant for minimal jewellery”.

The next piece she’s working on is a ring that features an Omani khanjar. “It is a symbol of pride in Oman, and this piece is my way of imbibing the culture and sentiments of the people I live among.”

All the pieces are created under Bhimsaria’s Lil Sherpa House of Crafts brand, which she co-founded alongside her brother, Yugam, in Bengaluru, India, in 2018.

“We started with Nepalese products such as felt, hemp, and Lokta paper made from the Daphne tree.”

As the business took off, Bhimsaria quit her job at a jewellery firm and began designing for Lil Sherpa full-time. When she had to move from India to Nepal during the pandemic in 2020, she decided to make good on her designing knowledge and launched the Lil Sherpa Jewellery line in 2021, collaborating with local craftsmen from her home country and using relatively inexpensive brass as her base metal.

Following her move to Muscat last September – and her shift in aesthetic following last year’s exhibition – the designer now also includes Middle East-favoured pearls and lapis in her pieces.

Updated: September 19, 2023, 10:04 AM